Solutions / City-Wide Solutions

Citywide Solutions

Cities have many solutions available to reduce air pollution quickly and at scale. See which solution areas are right for your city.

“Cities can reduce both air pollution and short-lived climate pollutants such as black carbon and ozone through a range of measures that benefit health very immediately and climate in the near term.”

Dr. Carlos Dora, Coordinator of WHO’s air quality, public policies and health work.
01

Solutions for Transport

01 - Solutions for Transport Strong public transit systems are the backbone for making our cities “trim”, energy efficient and more livable. Cities built primarily around car travel quickly become sprawling and “obese” -- gobbling up land in highways and parking lots, generating more pollution, and fostering unhealthy lifestyles. Pedestrian- and cycle-friendly cities with separated networks for walking biking and mass transit make commuting safer, easier, healthier, and less expensive.
  • Walking & cycling paths

    Walking and cycling networks make trips by foot or bicycle safer and more accessible, preventing pollution from vehicles, traffic injuries, and promoting better health through physical activity.

  • Efficient mass transit

    Shifting people to more efficient forms of transport, including bus rapid transit, light rail and other forms of shared transportation dramatically reduces air pollution by cutting down on private vehicle use and emissions.

  • Emission standards

    Raising emissions standards for all vehicles takes heavy polluters off the road and drives market pressures for cleaner vehicles, as well as innovation for cleaner technologies. Reducing high-sulfur fuels in many emerging economies is an important first step.

  • Soot-free vehicles

    “Soot-free” vehicles reduce tailpipe particulate/black carbon emissions by 85% or more, as compared to uncontrolled diesel exhaust. Soot-free vehicles are typically vehicles certified to Euro VI or US 2010 emission levels, including electric drive or hybrid engines, compressed natural gas (CNG), biogas/other biofuels, or diesel engines with a functioning diesel particle filter.

SEE FURTHER RESOURCES
Mayor of London launches taskforce to boost electric vehicles on London’s roads

This month, as part of widespread World Environment Day action, the Mayor of London announced the forming of a new taskforce dedicated to expanding the infrastructure needed to increase the adoption of electric vehicles in the city. The taskforce comprises 16 organization, including UK Power Networks, the British Rail Consortium and the RAC Foundation, a […]

UK Government releases draft Clean Air Strategy for consultation

The Government of the United Kingdom is calling for consultation on a new draft Clean Air Strategy, whose proposed actions could cut the costs of air pollution to society by an estimated £1 billion every year by 2020, rising to £2.5 billion every year from 2030. It outlines actions to improve air quality by reducing […]

Cycling growing in popularity in Brazilian megacity São Paulo

It’s no coincidence São Paulo was the city in which Zoom, described as “Uber for helicopters”, made its worldwide debut late last year. The biggest city in South America (population: 21.2 million) is infamous for its traffic; a recent study found that Paulistanos spent 86 hours each on average in 2017 stuck in traffic (or […]

Singapore first Southeast Asian city to join BreatheLife campaign

Singapore, the world’s island city-state and home to 5.6 million people, is the first Southeast Asian city to join the #BreatheLife campaign. The city joins over 32 cities, regions and countries that have committed to reducing the number of deaths from air pollution by 2030 under BreatheLife, a joint campaign led by the World Health […]

Nine African cities pledge to become “zero emission” by 2050

Nine African cities last week pledged to become zero-carbon economies by 2050. Accra in Ghana, Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, Addis Ababa in Ethiopia, Lagos in Nigeria, Dakar in Senegal, and Durban, Tshwane, Johannesburg and Cape Town in South Africa will take actions to reduce emissions from areas including transportation, energy production and waste management. […]

Keep your BreatheLife Challenge alive with these six tips

As the BreatheLife Challenge strides and cycles into its third week, 50,943 people (and growing!) from all over the world have promised to ditch their cars and walk, cycle or bus/train/tram instead. Whether to cut air pollution, boost fitness, save on fuel, accompany friends, family or colleagues, make a statement about creating liveable cities, have […]

A new leadership cycle for Costa Rica

Newly-elected president of Costa Rica Carlos Alvarado arrived at the inauguration of his new parliament in capital San José this week in a hydrogen-fuelled bus flanked by a bevy of cyclists, among them, Legislative Assembly president Carolina Hidalgo. It’s a timely signal, and a nod to the persistent work of the city’s activists for non-motorised […]

Motorsport champion Lucas di Grassi joins the fight for clean air

Brazilian racecar driver Lucas di Grassi has announced his support for UN Environment’s work to reduce air pollution – the single biggest environmental health risk of our time. “For me, it’s a lifetime achievement to be a part of the UN Environment Programme,” said di Grassi in Paris last week ahead of the 2018 Qatar […]

Norway’s fjords will be first “zero emission zone at sea” by 2026

Good news on sea-based air pollution comes in waves, it seems. Out of BreatheLife city Oslo came the announcement that Norway’s iconic, UNESCO heritage fjords will be a zero emissions zone in eight years’ time. Just three weeks after the International Maritime Organization announced that it would halve carbon dioxide emissions (based on 2008 levels) […]

Toss the car keys and get moving this May

Challenge accepted.  That’s what almost 40,000 people have declared just this week as the BreatheLife campaign threw down its first gauntlet: This May, will you leave your car at home and walk, cycle or take public transport instead, to cut air pollution and get healthier at the same time?  The BreatheLife Challenge is a rallying […]

02

Solutions for Waste Management

02 - Solutions for Waste Management Landfills account for 11% of the world’s methane emissions, and municipal waste is expected to nearly double by 2025. Furthermore, an estimated 90% of wastewater in developing countries is discharged untreated or partially treated. Better waste management programs are integral to ensuring our communities don’t suffer as a result, both on a local and global level.
  • Landfill gas recovery

    Landfill gas recovery is an innovative, renewable energy option that actually harnesses harmful landfill emissions rather than allowing them to enter the atmosphere or our lungs.

  • Improved wastewater treatment

    Improving wastewater treatment and sanitation provisions, both in the home and in industry, can make an enormous difference in reducing infectious disease risks.

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Nine African cities pledge to become “zero emission” by 2050

Nine African cities last week pledged to become zero-carbon economies by 2050. Accra in Ghana, Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, Addis Ababa in Ethiopia, Lagos in Nigeria, Dakar in Senegal, and Durban, Tshwane, Johannesburg and Cape Town in South Africa will take actions to reduce emissions from areas including transportation, energy production and waste management. […]

World Health Organization issues recommendations to tackle health impacts of air pollution in Mongolia

The World Health Organization (WHO) last week released a set of long-, medium- and short-term recommendations for the Government of Mongolia to tackle air pollution. It is also urging the Government to keep air pollution as a top priority for policies and implementation throughout the year. The use of biomass (such as raw coal) to heat […]

Clarke Energy in the UK is using landfill gas to supply more than 2.7million EU homes

In addition, by capturing landfill gas instead of emitting it directly into atmosphere, they can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 40 million tonnes CO2 equivalent each year.

Clean energy from sludge bio-digesters in Santiago

Large and centralized wastewater treatment plants in Santiago are harvesting methane emissions during wastewater treatment.

03

Household air & pollution

03 - Solutions for Household air & pollution Nearly 60% of premature deaths from household air pollution are among women and children who spend hours around sooty cookstoves burning wood, coal and kerosene. Shifting to cleaner stoves can have a domino effect of benefits – reducing black carbon emissions as well as the time spent by women and girls in gathering fuel.
  • Low-emission stoves and fuels

    Cleaner-burning biomass stoves and other low-emission fuels or stove types improve air quality in the home and the community, and lower risk of burns or other injuries.

  • Improved lighting

    Electric lighting, including PV solar rooftop panels, reduces reliance on kerosene lamps that emit heavy concentrations of harmful black carbon and other air pollutants.

  • Passive building design principles

    Reducing the need for extra heating or cooling by designing homes that take advantage of the sun’s natural warming and fresh air ventilation for cooling can help minimize a home’s air pollution and carbon footprint.

SEE FURTHER RESOURCES
UK Government releases draft Clean Air Strategy for consultation

The Government of the United Kingdom is calling for consultation on a new draft Clean Air Strategy, whose proposed actions could cut the costs of air pollution to society by an estimated £1 billion every year by 2020, rising to £2.5 billion every year from 2030. It outlines actions to improve air quality by reducing […]

Youth spring to action against air pollution in the world’s coldest national capital

Fifteen-year-old Erdenechimeg puts on her school uniform, a jumper and her snug parka, and sets off on her daily walk to school. On this day, there are blue skies on the walk from her home to school in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia; but in winter, when residents in traditional houses burn raw coal to ward against temperatures […]

Mongolia tackles air pollution in Ulaanbaatar by legislation and example

It’s midday, but the sky is dark, as if dusk has long fallen. The winter air is thick and sooty, creeping into living areas, from thousands of heating stoves and hearths alit with smoky, bituminous coal— 350,000 tonnes of this cheapest and most readily available solid fuel— and a persistent smog blankets the streets. The […]

World Health Organization issues recommendations to tackle health impacts of air pollution in Mongolia

The World Health Organization (WHO) last week released a set of long-, medium- and short-term recommendations for the Government of Mongolia to tackle air pollution. It is also urging the Government to keep air pollution as a top priority for policies and implementation throughout the year. The use of biomass (such as raw coal) to heat […]

Cleaner cookstoves linked to better pregnancy outcomes

Details of the link between air pollution and the health of unborn children are growing. Hot on the heels of a British Medical Journal study that linked outdoor air pollution to lower birthweight of babies, a new study has found, conversely, that switching from more polluting traditional cookstoves to cleaner-burning ethanol ones has positive impacts […]

Burn Right Campaign

As the seasons change and the weather turns cold in the northern hemisphere, millions of homes in Europe, Asia and North America turn to fireplaces and wood stoves for warmth. But these bright cozy fires often have a dark side, hurting both the environment and our health. The Burn Right campaign exposes this harmful impact […]

Washington, DC joins BreatheLife Network

The District’s core strategy for cleaner air is outlined in the Clean Energy DC plan, an ambitious vision for reducing greenhouse gas emissions 50 percent by 2032 and 80 percent by 2080. The bold plan positions the District as a global leader in fighting climate change; it also offers a roadmap to cleaner air and healthier citizens.

Mongolia joins the BreatheLife network

Mongolia’s capital city Ulaanbaatar is one of the most polluted in the world. But the nation is charting a new path towards a green economy and sustainable urban development.

The District is World’s First LEED Platinum City

On August 31, Washington, DC was recognized by the U.S. Green Building Council for achieving its goals in sustainability and resiliency. The city is the first certified LEED Platinum City in the world.

Talca, Chile joins global BreatheLife campaign

Talca’s air quality strategy is focused on reducing smoke from firewood. The strategy includes measures such as improved weatherization and thermal insulation of homes to lower heating demands, and overhauling wood stoves and replacing outdated heaters.

04

Solutions for Energy supply

04 - Solutions for Energy supply Oil and gas produce 25% of the world’s methane emissions. Flaring, the burning of uncaptured gas during production, emits harmful black carbon. Better control of fugitive emissions and capturing flared gas as fuel helps limit emissions from current oil and gas production in the short-term, while the shift to renewable energy sources can ensure a cleaner, healthier future in the long-term.
  • Renewable power supply

    Renewables directly improve air quality while slowing climate change. For example, rooftop PV solar systems in off-grid rural areas or fast-growing cities with unreliable energy supply is a clean, and cost-effective alternative to heavily polluting portable diesel generators.

  • Diesel replacement

    The fine particles and black carbon emitted by diesel vehicles and engines can be virtually eliminated through technologies that are already present on half of new heavy-duty vehicles sold today.

SEE FURTHER RESOURCES
Mayor of London launches taskforce to boost electric vehicles on London’s roads

This month, as part of widespread World Environment Day action, the Mayor of London announced the forming of a new taskforce dedicated to expanding the infrastructure needed to increase the adoption of electric vehicles in the city. The taskforce comprises 16 organization, including UK Power Networks, the British Rail Consortium and the RAC Foundation, a […]

UK Government releases draft Clean Air Strategy for consultation

The Government of the United Kingdom is calling for consultation on a new draft Clean Air Strategy, whose proposed actions could cut the costs of air pollution to society by an estimated £1 billion every year by 2020, rising to £2.5 billion every year from 2030. It outlines actions to improve air quality by reducing […]

Nine African cities pledge to become “zero emission” by 2050

Nine African cities last week pledged to become zero-carbon economies by 2050. Accra in Ghana, Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, Addis Ababa in Ethiopia, Lagos in Nigeria, Dakar in Senegal, and Durban, Tshwane, Johannesburg and Cape Town in South Africa will take actions to reduce emissions from areas including transportation, energy production and waste management. […]

Norway’s fjords will be first “zero emission zone at sea” by 2026

Good news on sea-based air pollution comes in waves, it seems. Out of BreatheLife city Oslo came the announcement that Norway’s iconic, UNESCO heritage fjords will be a zero emissions zone in eight years’ time. Just three weeks after the International Maritime Organization announced that it would halve carbon dioxide emissions (based on 2008 levels) […]

Youth spring to action against air pollution in the world’s coldest national capital

Fifteen-year-old Erdenechimeg puts on her school uniform, a jumper and her snug parka, and sets off on her daily walk to school. On this day, there are blue skies on the walk from her home to school in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia; but in winter, when residents in traditional houses burn raw coal to ward against temperatures […]

Three steps we need to take, starting this Earth Day, to avoid a climate catastrophe

•  Convert all our end uses of energy to electricity use and generate that electricity using solar, wind, hydro, geothermal and renewable biofuels. •  Drastically reduce emissions of “super pollutants” such as methane and soot for which the needed technologies are mostly available. •  Remove half of the carbon dioxide pollution that has already accumulated […]

Mongolia tackles air pollution in Ulaanbaatar by legislation and example

It’s midday, but the sky is dark, as if dusk has long fallen. The winter air is thick and sooty, creeping into living areas, from thousands of heating stoves and hearths alit with smoky, bituminous coal— 350,000 tonnes of this cheapest and most readily available solid fuel— and a persistent smog blankets the streets. The […]

Sulphur dioxide falls to record lows in the U.K. after coal plant closures

Levels of sulphur dioxide fell significantly between 2015 and 2016, largely as a result of the United Kingdom shutting down coal-fired power stations or converting them to biomass plants as part of its move to becoming a low-carbon economy. As of last month, sulphur dioxide emissions fell by 29 per cent year-on-year, while nitrogen oxide levels […]

World Health Organization issues recommendations to tackle health impacts of air pollution in Mongolia

The World Health Organization (WHO) last week released a set of long-, medium- and short-term recommendations for the Government of Mongolia to tackle air pollution. It is also urging the Government to keep air pollution as a top priority for policies and implementation throughout the year. The use of biomass (such as raw coal) to heat […]

France kicks off 2018 with anti-pollution incentives

Up to €1000 for any French citizen who wants to replace their old petrol-engine cars for those emitting less carbon dioxide, €3,000 for poorer households to switch to renewables-powered heating systems and an increase in the price of carbon. These are three measures, part of France’s “climate solidarity package”, came into force in 2018 as the […]

05

Solutions for Industry

05 - Solutions for Industry With more people living in cities, brick production and other heavy industry continue to contribute to air pollution. New technologies and practices are increasingly being introduced so that even as our cities grow, air pollution doesn’t grow with it.
  • Improved brick kilns

    Kilns used for firing bricks are heavy polluters of black carbon and put workers at increased risk for respiratory illness, but new kilns are being used that can cut emissions by up to half.

  • Improved coke ovens

    Coke ovens used to produce some metals emit toxins that can increase cancer risk. However, emissions can be captured for power generation and help minimize what is entered into the atmosphere

  • Fugitive emission control

    Fugitive emissions occur from leaks or the burning off of excess gas through flaring. Ongoing maintenance and new monitoring and detection technology can limit unnecessary emission from industry.

SEE FURTHER RESOURCES
UK Government releases draft Clean Air Strategy for consultation

The Government of the United Kingdom is calling for consultation on a new draft Clean Air Strategy, whose proposed actions could cut the costs of air pollution to society by an estimated £1 billion every year by 2020, rising to £2.5 billion every year from 2030. It outlines actions to improve air quality by reducing […]

San Antonio largest city to ban coal tar-based sealants

In June of 2016, the San Antonio City Council made history by banning the use of coal tar-based sealcoat products, making it the largest city in the nation to prohibit this compound which contains chemicals known to to cause cancer. City staff analyzed more than 80 white papers and research studies demonstrating that coal tar sealants […]

Building back with cleaner kilns (Nepal)

After the destruction of nearly 300,000 homes and significant damage to brick production facilities from the April 2015 earthquake…

New kiln technology (Bangladesh)

A brick kiln technology developed in Germany uses half the amount of coal during brick production, trapping particles inside the bricks…

06

Solutions for Food & Agriculture

06 - Solutions for Agriculture The agricultural revolution of the past 50 years has dramatically increased food supplies. At the same time, livestock production has become a major driver of climate change due to its heavy water, feed and energy requirements, and a major source of methane emissions from ruminant animals like cattle. Rice production in continuously flooded fields is also a major source of methane, which is has immediate climate warming impacts far more powerful than longer-lived CO2.
  • Alternate "wet-dry" irrigation

    Intermittently drying out rice paddies, which traditionally were flooded year-round, can significantly cut methane emissions, while also reducing breeding grounds for disease-bearing mosquitoes and other vectors.

  • Improved manure management

    Waste “digestors” extract methane from livestock waste and sewage converting emissions into a clean energy source. Manure can also be used as fertilizer to improve crop production, moderate methane release and prevent the spread of disease.

  • Reduced open burning

    Waste management programmes to prevent open burning from crop waste and domestic and municipal waste such as paper and plastics, avoids dangerous pollutants from being released into the air, including black carbon.

  • Healthier food production

    Policies that promote diets rich in plant-based foods, particularly among middle- and high-income populations with plentiful food choices, can lower healthcare costs while reducing methane emissions from livestock production.

  • Reduced food waste

    Separating and composting biodegradable food waste reduces methane emissions from landfills, and can also be used as a source of fertilizer for local agriculture.

SEE FURTHER RESOURCES
UK Government releases draft Clean Air Strategy for consultation

The Government of the United Kingdom is calling for consultation on a new draft Clean Air Strategy, whose proposed actions could cut the costs of air pollution to society by an estimated £1 billion every year by 2020, rising to £2.5 billion every year from 2030. It outlines actions to improve air quality by reducing […]

India announces plan to bring down air pollution from crop burning

India’s government has announced new measures to help cut air pollution from the burning of agricultural waste, a major contributor to regular air quality crises in the north of the country. The new measures, announced this month, offers subsidies for a range of machines that should remove the need for a farmer to set fire […]

Incentive programs for composting (Penang)

Penang’s composting project creates incentives for households to separate their organic waste.